Photograph by Joshua Yospyn
What could be described as a smaller, dry cousin of the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the family-friendly Maryland Faerie Festival in Upper Marlboro began in 2005. For one weekend a year, humans from miles around descend onto a gigantic grassy field full of pixies, goblins, minstrels, and mermaids. The $3 parking fee and $10 ticket ($3 for ages 12 and under) is peanuts compared with the visual value of this place.
Within seconds I felt guilty for not dressing up (there’s a $1 discount for coming in costume), so I asked a 17-year-old named Luke, who’s in charge of garbage collection at the festival, where he got his red devil horns; after spending $12 to purchase my own, I was set. Off I went to photograph the 2 PM Faerie Fashion Show, followed by a brief encounter with a pagan and a rainbow-sprinkled-soft-serve cone, after which I embedded myself into a belly-dancing class.
Takoma Park resident Paul Sharratt first took his daughter Evelyn to the Faerie Festival in 2009. “She was interested in faeries at the time, and I thought it would be totally bizarre,” he says. “It was.”
Back for the third time, seven-year-old Evelyn flutters her faerie wings around the grounds while her dad, an experienced photographer, swings both a Nikon and a Leica around his neck to document the experience. In fact, his most popular Flickr photograph is of the Yellow Faerie (Rawbin Anderson, whose sister Holly Budd runs the festival) in a bright-orange leg cast riding Sweetie the Unicorn (Anderson’s 28-year-old Purebred Arabian horse).
As for Evelyn’s favorite thing about this year’s festival? “Caw! Caw!” she squeaks, imitating the Raven, a masked performance artist who entertained a group of children late in the afternoon with fire juggling and teasing antics.
Closing out the festival on the Honeysuckle Stage was Telesma, described by band member Ian Hesford as “psychedelic tribal rock.” Readied with a fresh coat of black and silver body paint, Ian got on the didjeridoo and as Telesma played, hula-hoop artists twirled, 21st-century hippies danced, and two members of the audience practiced yoga. Giant soap bubbles drifted through the air. The sun was shining, and I’d just finished a large fresh-squeezed lemonade. It was a magical day.